Expect a distinct shift from university research to commercialization under a Paul Martin government. That’s the strong message being heard throughout the S&T community as Ottawa’s summer of transition leads to a November showdown between Martin and Sheila Copps and Martin’s inevitable coronation.
For the innovation file, a Martin government is good news. As Finance minister, he was the prime architect of the government’s current innovation policy and the slew of investments that followed the balancing of the deficit. Since Martin’s abrupt departure from Cabinet, however, the innovation agenda has slowed. Numerous proposals to stimulate and assist commercialization have been rejected as too expensive or remain on the shelf waiting for decisions to be made.
Commercialization coupled with cluster development will likely be the first priority of a Martin administration. There’s growing consensus that university researchers have had their moment in the spotlight. And while there’s no suggestion that university research will not increase in the future, the focus will move decisively towards the private sector.
Confronting the gaps between laboratories and the marketplace is precisely where urgent action is required. If Martin wants to avoid watching his ambitious innovation targets turned into a cruel joke, prompt action is essential in the areas of financing, incentives and immigration — for starters.
Canadians want to see a return on their investment in the new economy. Successful commercialization policies will ensure public support for future S&T spending.